Tennessee Titans players and coaches have taken notice in recent years. Nashville has become a destination city for fans of their opponents.
The coronavirus pandemic already has forced the NFL to make a number of tough decisions, and another one looms: will fans be in attendance this fall? For now, the league plans to start its 16-game season on time (Sept. 10) and many remain optimistic that spectators, in some capacity, will be allowed.
If not, Nashville could face more economic hardship than it already has. According to Butch Spyridon, President and CEO of the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corporation (NCVC), the city has lost roughly $1.3 billion in revenue due to COVID-19 thus far.
In 2019, a record-setting 16.1 million people visited the city. That number, Spyridon said, will inevitably be lower in 2020, and it could be worsened if fans can’t go to Titans games this fall.
“Normally, a good season, without playing Buffalo, New Orleans or Pittsburgh, we would see 2,000 or 3,000 visiting fans per game,” he said. “When the Titans play those teams, Philadelphia or New England, we saw upwards of 10,000 visiting fans. Depending on the schedule, depending on the teams, it’s a pretty dramatic impact. You do get some of the television exposure, but it's not the same without fans.”
Most notably, the Titans have home games against Buffalo, Pittsburgh and Chicago in 2020.
Without fans traveling to the Music City, Spyridon said that restaurants, bars and hotels would be among the hardest hit, but other businesses, such as gas stations, grocery stores and souvenir shops, could take a blow too.
“If they’re coming in, they could be renting a car, jumping in and buying gas,” he said. “If they’re going to tailgate, as a lot of visiting fans have tailgated in the past, so grocery stores would be impacted. And then retail. Souvenirs are a big spend as well.”
It’s possible that the influx of visiting fans had an impact on home-field advantage for the Titans in 2019, as they finished .500 (4-4) at Nissan Stadium for the first time in five seasons. It was also the first season of eight in which they made the playoffs during the Titans era (1999-present) that they did not have a winning record at home.
No matter the numbers or records, Spyridon certainly hopes to see at least some seats filled this season, but without capacity crowds, the monetary losses will still be present.
“Having fans will definitely help,” he said. “But there’s still going to be a financial impact on local spending and visitor travel.”